Marilynne Robinson talks religion, fear and the American spirit: “The left, at a basic level, lost courage, because they don’t know how to deal with the proclaimed religiosity of the other side”

Jan 13, 2016

by Michael Schulson

It makes sense that Barack Obama would describe Marilynne Robinson as one of his favorite novelists. Like a great politician, Robinson has a knack for making the small details of American life seem freighted with cosmic significance.

Unlike a politician, Robinson works in a lonely profession, and in person she’s reserved—warm but quiet, with a ready laugh. She speaks fluently and frankly about topics that few Americans, let alone public figures, would touch with anything besides platitudes—theology, Calvinism, metaphysics, and redemption; the nature of grace and sin. She is decidedly left-wing in her politics, and unabashedly theistic in her worldview.

Robinson teaches at the University of Iowa’s Iowa Writers Workshop. She has won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (for her 2005 novel “Gilead”) and a National Book Critics Circle award for “Lila,” which came out last year. In September, Obama interviewed her about her work, in a wide-ranging conversation subsequently published in The New York Review of Books.

In a new essay collection, “The Givenness of Things,” Robinson touches on everything from neuroscience to the New Testament. She seems as comfortable talking about physics and philosophy as she is discussing God or capitalism. The collection includes a powerful essay on the role of fear in American political discourse, a recurring concern for Robinson in recent years.

I met Robinson in a hotel lobby in Atlanta, where she was receiving an award from the American Academy of Religion. Over coffee, we spoke about fear, faith and why Moses would have advocated for retail workers.


Read more by clicking on the name of the source below.

 

60 comments on “Marilynne Robinson talks religion, fear and the American spirit: “The left, at a basic level, lost courage, because they don’t know how to deal with the proclaimed religiosity of the other side”

  • 1
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    @op ed:

    Over coffee, we spoke about fear, faith and why Moses would have advocated for retail workers…

    As long as those workers weren’t Canaanites of course….



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  • Thanks, S7. Helpful.

    I find her interesting. There are few enough religious folk in the US whose morality seems both sufficiently developed and dosed with a reasonable skepticism.

    Her problem is her metaphysical re-synthesis of a theology. Nowhere near enough scientific truth to balance the old philosophies despite its celebration.

    I think she may be a healthy force bringing some loons down from the cliff edge, But, she’s not the equivalent of the UK Quaker I’m looking for.



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  • Agreed Phil. And while I like her also, I obviously don’t get the whole Calvinist thing; I simply don’t understand the appeal of that to an otherwise rational person who is a marvelous writer. That was reflected in the comment I left, which is the only comment on that thread. To save time here it is:

    This was a nice essay. And though I realize it was an essay about a
    Christian author (only labeled so because the thrust of this essay
    regards her faith informed opinions) by a professor of Christian
    Studies, I had issue with this:

    “and no surprise, either, that she attacks modern science whenever it
    exceeds its proper bounds.”

    Robinson is a brilliant writer, but that does not make her any more of
    an authority on when science “exceeds its proper bounds” (whatever
    that means) than me.



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  • “freighted with cosmic significance’ – straight from the post-modern bullshite generator me-thinks.
    She has no right to claim intelligence if she still believes in iron-age pre-scientific ignorance. Just another example of a humanities lecturer with typical physics-envy…..Pseudo-profundity at it’s worst i’m afraid!



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  • Speaking of poetics, Phil, you may find this of interest. Here is Ms. Robinson’s review (takedown would be more accurate, or attempted takedown at least) of The God Delusion. The poetics? Oh, she begins her review thusly and throws in a sharp barb (fashioned as a backhanded compliment) at RD’s attempts at poetry:

    It is never a surprise to find Dawkins full of indignation. In his new book, The God Delusion, he has turned the full force of his intellect against religion, and all his verbal skills as well, and his humane learning, too, which is capacious enough to include some deeply minor poetry.

    But I won’t deny you the pleasure of a first reading; the lady can write, no doubt about that. Enjoy (the original can be found at Harpers, but I found this one on a blog):

    http://megdoesblogs.blogspot.com/2011/11/marilynne-robinsons-review-of-richard.html



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  • Steven007
    Jan 15, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Marilynne Robinson’s Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion

    The link does seem to be full of obfuscating apologist rhetoric, combined with a load of science denial trolling assertions, which are a mixture of personal incredulity, and a basic lack of comprehension of the science Richard quotes.



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  • @OP – I met Robinson in a hotel lobby in Atlanta, where she was receiving an award from the American Academy of Religion.

    Obviously well versed in the art of fiction writing and story telling!

    In a new essay collection, “The Givenness of Things,” Robinson touches on everything from neuroscience to the New Testament. She seems as comfortable talking about physics and philosophy as she is discussing God or capitalism.

    A glib superficial talker and conversationalist – but from Steven007’s link – she does not have much idea about the workings of science, and apparently is unable to follow RD’s reasoning, despite clear explanations!

    Clearly she should stick to the fiction, because science is not based on rhetoric or religious preconceptions, and anyone with scientific capabilities would have noticed this!



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  • Awesomely bad! Bad in just about every respect. Her incapacity to even be a moderate observer is lamentable. A veritable straw army with straw strategies.

    Science quite appropriately acknowledges that error should be assumed, and at best it proceeds by a continuous process of criticism meant to isolate and identify error. So bad science is still science in more or less the same sense that bad religion is still religion.

    This graceless account of science fails miserably to note its engines of destruction capable of and eager to consume all its children if truth demand. To set this process almost as a tolerance of grumbles, is a pathetic attempt to give religion a chance to avoid its dogmatic disgrace. The comparison is farcical.

    Eugenics was a tragedy bound to happen in the hands of evil folk and given the religious narratives still in eveyone’s heads at the time. We all (well most) until recently were tainted with the religious idea of an ordered human living in an ordered world, an intentional product needing maintenance. Perhaps the greatest of religious poisons…..

    From the get go she even fails to notice RD’s intention simply to deny the religious their undue interference in the public space achieved by demonstrating merely the unlikelihood of religions’ various and conflicting propositions and that this assumed license of theirs to freely meddle is not and should not be thought Teflon coated.

    Thanks, for the insight, Steven. Indeed, thanks to everyone for their inputs.

    She has suddenly become even more interesting, but now rather as a threat.



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  • @OP – Photograph – U.S. author Marilynne Robinson smiles during an interview with Reuters in central London June 4, 2009.

    She has the same blissful smile of delusion, which I regularly see on the face of a lady handing out Jehova’s Witness magazines at a shopping centre!



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  • Why don’t stop giving her more publicity than she already has, as Muhammad Ali said once (about Sonny Liston)? If she didn’t like The God Delusion, (which should be mandatory in every classroom) than there is something wrong with her, not the book. Clearly another mediocre, yet overestimated, mind. All politics.
    A lot of people can write well. Who gives a shit?
    I am trying to find an interview. deGrasse Tyson put it so well. When asked about the occasional destructive outcomes that have arisen from science (like thew atom bomb) he rather angrily turned to the audience and said that science is science; you don’t stop inventing, creating, and discovering; it is up to us humans to put these achievements to good use. No guarantee that that will happen. He put it much better.
    But atheism, finally, is not a belief; it is the absence of belief (in that which is not substantiated by evidence), and it (atheism) does zero harm by itself. On the contrary. Same with science.
    You can’t say the same about religion. A lie is always harmful, will always lead to “mischief” (Schopenhauer’s word), will always be a tool in the hands of corrupt politicians who feed it to the lumpenproletariat, etc. This is so basic. Too bad we have to state the obvious over and over again.
    If anyone wants to read good fiction read Melville, Fitzgerald, Hardy, Dickens, Nathaniel West, and above all, Mailer…The list goes on.
    This lady’s a nobody, another darling of the literary establishment. (Too harsh?)



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  • As I stated I’ve been on the lookout for a US religious institution of the moral integrity of the UK Quakers. I fully understand why you mightn’t understand or appreciate what I am trying to do, but even so I think I poured sufficient antidote on the women to not lead anyone astray.

    You are in grave error, though, if you think this woman a nobody. She is the epitome of the hyper-pro-social left, with the ear of the highest in the land. Nor should you be concerned at a seeming failure to keep up appearances here. Searching for useful value amongst the mildly religious to help solve the problem of more fundamentalist religion in the US is never shameful even when it fails.



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  • My comment was written hastily, a knee-jerk reaction. Bad habit, but I don’t like anyone who doesn’t like The God Delusion, and so I proceeded on that basis.
    I have no interest in reading her. Do you think I’d like her?
    What was that about the Quakers? You can’t say that I don’t appreciate what you are saying. I am sure I would. I don’t know enough about the Quakers or your position regarding their culture to think anything at the present moment.
    Btw, I had a good joke about an Amish woman that I happened to pass by. That was after your comment about the Quakers. (I went to Friends Seminary. Good school.)
    Are U mad at me?



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  • Her incapacity to even be a moderate observer is lamentable. A
    veritable straw army with straw strategies.

    I almost led with the lamentable straw man arguments. I personally have the most trouble understanding how otherwise seemingly rational people (Mr. Robinson, Francis Collins, etc) reach the conclusions they reach. It’s easier to understand buffoons acting like buffoons. But Robinson (an acclaimed writer with otherwise cogent views on many topics, save religion) and Collins are reasonable people by most measures not including their religious views. We can’t exclude these people from reasonable conversations (Hitch had a friendship and a mutual respect with Collins), otherwise we never get to the crux of their beliefs and the agents that helped shape them.



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  • Steve, I bought “The Language of God” (Collins). It was feeble and disappointing stuff. Poorly recycled C.S.Lewis apologetics and his moment of conversion/reconviction was an encounter with a frozen three cascade waterfall clearly telling him of the triune god.

    This failure of his scientific scepticism probably has roots in any number of personal psychological events. I must strongly advise people at risk of religion to befriend as many psychologically challenged folk as possible. It will enliven your dinner parties and cure you of placing over much faith in any surprising feelings you get.

    Robinson needed a beguiling science teacher when she was young. Probably thought philosophy was the same thing.



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  • Mr. Robinson? Is she a he?
    How are you Steven? Glad it was the cat.
    What novel would you recommend by this woman? I shouldn’t be so closed off.
    Phil, can’t you leave philosophy alone? She was at one time the queen of the sciences, and now is on her last legs.
    You gave me that “prezzie” and now you’re back in your anti-philosophy mode.



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  • Thanks for the heads up, Phil. As a former working scientist (once a scientist always a scientist?) who has friends that still work at NIH (both of whom have had congenial encounters with Collins), I was inclined to give Collins book at least a cursory glance, but after your sober missive regarding his book I am now disinclined. And I also read elsewhere about his revelatory moment when confronted with 3 pieces of ice that somehow, some way convinced him of the holy trinity. Well, let’s be reasonable. All of the elements of an evangelical epiphany were clearly already bouncing around in his head just waiting for something to retrofit this revelation in. He’d have been better off taking a page out of Hitch’s book and having some of Mr. Walker’s amber restorative over 3 pieces of ice and praying it was as good as he’d heard.



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  • Dan, don’t read her.

    I use the UK Quakers (accept no other) as a properly moral manifestation of a religion. My gambit with nice Catholics say is to point to the utter poison of the Magisterium, the unconscionable harms it has wrought with the worst still to come and ask them why not choose a better religion. Certainly in extended personal encounters it has worked well. Explaining that the poison of religion is a moral poison, that morality is the more moral if its actions reside in the world so they can be refined, stops the fatuity of arguing people out of the otherwise aesthetic stance on a God or physics button push to set everything off.

    US Quakers don’t hold a candle. The UK originals are now half agnostic.

    I need a US equivalent. The Unitarians are wussy on morals. I thought for a moment this woman might have the moral mojo. But no. She has probably read too much Kirkegaard and rotted the reason right out of her synapses.

    I love philosophy (though it was only a “science” until Bacon realised observation and thinking really was not sufficient and upped its game). W’n’Popper are waiting for you. Maybe Quine?



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  • Phil, Kierkegaard was a very great writer. Wittgenstein was in awe of him, btw.
    Sometimes I think he was the most remarkable writer that ever existed.
    Yes, he was a man of faith. But he was the best theologian ever.
    (Kind of like saying the greatest criminal ever? Not really. There is a lot of beauty and great artistry in his books. I have read most of them. Can’t stomach the later ones. He employed what he called “direct communication” at that stage of his career and they read like sermons.
    Read Stages on Life’s Way and Either-Or, parts 1 and2. The concept of Irony is good too. Don’t let his crazy obsession with faith deter you from reading him. He was a great artist, wrote about Don Juan, Faust. The guy was tremendous.
    Bye, for now.
    Have a good week-end – wherever you are.



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  • Phil

    The Unitarians are wussy on morals.

    I’d like to know more about this. The UU church is filled to the brim over here. They are collecting disgruntled ex-members of other groups. I went to a funeral in that church last year. On entering I saw the symbols of all religions known to me arranged on the wall behind what used to be the altar and a few large symbols that i didn’t recognize. These large symbols all around were somewhat unsettling. I think they were proud of their super inclusion but how are they working that out? o_O



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  • Lauwie! Hewwo!
    I went to a concert at a Unitarian church not long ago (heard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms). They had this weird, bizarre looking crucifix in front. It looks like an abstract, impressionistic painting (or mosaic) of the cross. I think you should either be a Christian or a non-Christian. (The latter is better, of course.) What kind of cross is that? It looked like modern art. It’s like they’re saying: we are Christians but not really, with a wink to those who believe in JC and for those who don’t. Turned me off. Watery religion is as loathsome to me as watery atheism. Either be an atheist or a believer! (Sorry for raising my voice. Foul mood.)
    My superficial impression, for what it’s worth.
    I will say this: Rod Serling (a Jew) became a unitarian (according to his one biographer), so how bad can it be? He was a great guy.
    What is o_O?



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  • Kierkegaard was a very great philosopher and a honey-tongued, poetic seducer for religion. He transformed the possibilities of religion from its creaky unsustainable moralising based on a dubious historical narrative into a satisfying existential-ready personal theo-quality of love’n’niceness. At the time everyone loved it. It was a huge and attractive improvement. Even if you were atheist it clearly (seemingly) restored the moral mojo to religion to religion and society was secured. Religious young W was convinced yet-

    In a very interesting diary entry from 1931 he writes: “Kierkegaard’s writings are teasing and this is of course their intention, although I am not sure whether the exact effect they produce in me is intentional” (27). While he recognizes that this manipulation of the reader could be put to good use, he finds it morally questionable. He resents the idea that someone might trick him into doing something he doesn’t want to do. Even if he had the courage to adopt this trick himself, he says, he doubts whether he would have the right to employ it, and he thinks it shows a lack of love for one’s neighbor.

    Dan, you are the one in whose mind the removal of religion is a fait accompli. By contrast I’m proposing that if morality is left undamaged and religion is indeed reduced to a personal aesthetic, it is no longer a valid concern for us.

    The immorality here may flow, however, from the honey-tongued K as W sensed. It is the freedom to choose, unseduced, that underwrites one’s moral life.

    Marilynne Robinson is a seducer too.



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  • Hi Dan

    weird, bizarre looking crucifix

    So stupid. This is the ultimate cherry picking. Use the artistic imagery of a cross, morph it into a gorgeous flowing form and ignore the fact that those old style crosses in every other church are vulgar and frightening, especially to children. The artist must have been on commission and knew that if he/she presented a piece that was so extremely stylized as to be unrecognizable then there’d be no check at the end of the week.

    (Sorry for raising my voice. Foul mood.)

    I don’t blame all NY’ers for being in a foul mood after what scary candidate Cruz said about your crappy NY values. Ha! So funny. But then, I’m a Bostonian so whatever. 🙂

    o_O means “confused”



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  • phil rimmer
    Jan 15, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    No, Phil. I do not advocate or expect the removal of religion. I just want people there to be less of it. I don’t want it to poison education, I don’t want children to be inculcated, I don’t want people to be afraid of the stigma associated with being an atheist, I don’t want women (and gays) to be oppressed.—All the things that Dawkins talks about about.—I want people to think more critically, etc. I want a secular world view. That does not mean the destruction of religion. Religion gives people a sanction to be irrational. Maybe we need that. God knows.

    With all due respect, I don’t think Kierkegaard is your forte. He was a rigorous ethicist, tried to establish what he considered to be the authentic Christian mode of existence. He was an austere thinker, and for him, faith was a painful and rigorous process of renunciation. He was not merely a seducer. (I never though of him that way.) He was an ironist, a humorist, if you will. His role model was Socrates.

    I wish we could meet in person and discuss this and another things. Too tired to elaborate further.

    But he did not encourage “love’n’niceness.” He encouraged asceticism, self-denial.

    As I said, read him as an artist and you’ll be in for an incredible experience. Read him as a silver tongued manipulator trying to draw people in, and you’ll be repelled. The truth is that he may have been both. It has been hard for me to read him.

    But I am forever enriched for having done so. A very great writer. Trust me.

    I do not mind religious writers and artists per se.—On the contrary. Some are indeed loathsome – but some are inspiring as all hell. Oscar Wilde wrote a fable called The Selfish Giant. It is the most powerful story I have ever read, and he employed religious allegory. It’s religious people I can’t stand. (Some are okay.)

    If a religious writer (and K was certainly that) can make me feel something or make me think, can move me, then he or she has my respect, and I will defend them as artists and encourage others to try to take in the beauty and leave the rest – if they can.

    Your great admirer and (hopefully) your friend (from a distance),

    Dan



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  • ” his moment of conversion/reconviction was an encounter with a frozen three cascade waterfall clearly telling him of the triune god.”

    Because you hardly ever find things in 3s, fercrissakes.



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  • Thanks for the working link Phil.

    I don’t share your liking, and yet I don’t dislike Robinson either. Whenever I read her I come away with a feint feeling of warm satisfaction, but nothing more. She seems to me to be the political equivalent of a dose of tranquillisers. I’m neutral.

    Robinson is on to something when she talks about the politics of fear and globalisation. But this interview frustrates me by stone-skimming the surface of a Pacific-sized political problem.

    Robinson is a skilled writer, but she’s no polemicist. She seems to have a very limited understanding – she isn’t afraid to parade her point of view even when ignorant. Example:

    Interviewer: “Why do we associate faith with the right wing so much more than the left?”

    Robinson: “Because they talk about it all the time.”

    I find it very difficult to square such a shallow, unenlightened, interpretation with Robinson’s apparent status as a public intellectual.

    Robinson’s review of the book The God Delusion showed her to be the mistress of false equivalence and in the OP interview reveals a similar propensity to begin her arguments from a dogmatic viewpoint. She is, herself, clear that she has been a life-long theological thinker. Go figure.

    If you want to understand Robinson, the best link in this thread is to her essay (link above in the OP). There is much to like:

    We throw away our status in the world at the urging of those who think it has nothing to do with our laws and institutions, impressed by the zeal of those supernumeraries who are convinced that it all comes down to shock and awe and boots on the ground.

    Which is all very motherhood and apple pie, not to say blindingly obvious, and then Robinson stops. She could have saved herself an afternoon, and the rest of us several long paragraphs, and ended with: Whatever.

    Peace.



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  • Dan, of course we’re friends. I’m just aspie. I think you know already that we’re friends so whats more to do? In my experience friends work hardest to make the best of each other. No strangers’ politeness for them.

    What puzzles me about your utterances is that just sometimes they are absolute diktats one moment and then countered with qualifications later then later still re-uttered. I guess I am just tripped up by the emotional driver that puts the material out.

    You have often wished religion gone. It never will be. Ameliorating its harms like ameliorating the harms of autism, schizophrenia and psychopathy as they appear is what we can do.

    K is indeed wonderful. But he is honey-tongued. He does indeed offer a view of lived life that is ascetic, a personal task, which he gifts with aphoristic wisdom. I do indeed think this a love’n’niceness vision, made grown-up with poignancy and with the levers in our hands. It is entirely this aphoristic type thinking I was suggesting had rotted Robinson’s synapses. Yes I know K is profound and joined up, but he can be entirely misused, mis-accepted as W came to think.. He can also equivocate badly on occasions. Imagine Hallmark, the Kierkegaard range.

    We must talk Kirkegaard one day.



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  • @OP – “The left, at a basic level, lost courage, because they don’t know how to deal with the proclaimed religiosity of the other side

    Anyone who thinks that religiosity has only one side to it, is besotted with one religion, and ignorant of most!

    She is decidedly left-wing in her politics, and unabashedly theistic in her worldview.

    . . . . And anyone who thinks there is a uniformity of levels of understanding in the wings of politics, is clearly clueless about the many political groupings, ideologies and parties.

    Translated into Plain English:-
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plain_English_Campaign

    Plain English Campaign (PEC) is a commercial editing and training firm based in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1979 by Chrissie Maher, the company is a world leader in plain-language advocacy, working to persuade organisations in the UK and abroad to communicate with the public in plain language. Maher was awarded the OBE in 1994 for her services to plain communication.[1]

    .In 1990, PEC created the Crystal Mark, its seal of approval. This is a symbol printed on documents that it considers to be as clear as possible for the intended audience. The symbol appears on over 20,000 documents worldwide. They also give out the annual Foot in Mouth Award for “a baffling comment by a public figure”[2] and the Golden Bull Award for “the worst examples of written tripe”.[3] Notable winners of the Foot in Mouth Award include Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Gordon Brown, Richard Gere, and Donald Rumsfeld.

    . . . . Marilynne Robinson’s rambling flowery OP rhetoric, (expressing incredulity that those on her shared left-wing of politics, don’t accept her supernatural delusions), is probably a candidate for the “Foot in Mouth Award”!

    Her supposed analysis of “The God Delusion”, looks more like a candidate for the “Golden Bull Award”!



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  • LaurieB,

    The problem with UU is its all about appearance. Its possibly the most shameful of religious expressions, celebrating the varieties of celebration. It cannot in any way properly address moral behaviour in religion because it will break its one central tenet “Its all good”. It is otherwise, due to its passivity, mostly harmless.

    Unitarianism started well from roots including Newton (albeit as an Arian) unearthing the manipulation of “facts” at the Councils of Nicea and the like. It became the religion of choice for scientists, political radicals, and poets, and of course Jefferson. This urge toward the truth by excision of man made clag could not end well as the chopping off of bits would know no limit. This had to end when it got to the almost completely vacuous “essence” of a deity at which point Universalism allowed the scoffing of everyone else’s “essences”. Its just still skin and bone though. Its search for “spiritual growth” as its corporate mission statement is still inward facing just like the search for personal salvation.

    UK Quakers say we are fully equipped to be moral authors, so go and er author. If religion was thought the source of morality, they rather created a religion of morality.



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  • Yes, my friend Paul (who you’ve met – the late–W guy, the professor) has also expressed a certain, shall I say, exasperation at times regarding my seemingly contradictory views regarding what he refers to as my religious side and which I prefer to refer to (perhaps naively, or in an unwarranted way) as the absence of certainty in relation to the fundamental, inviolable mystery of life and existence. I know that Dawkins, et al (the former four horsemen) looked down on the idea of mystery and probably regard(ed) it as just another “God (mystery) of the gaps”!
    Yet it wouldn’t be honest if i didn’t admit that I have felt, at certain moments throughout my life (thus far) certain unique feelings and have had certain unique impressions that I would not feel at all comfortable referring to as anything other than – dare I say it – spiritual. So there you have it: I am confused, without definitive answers, in a continuous process of searching and forming a view of existence that is wholly my own.
    That aside I, like you and so many others, are appalled and infuriated by the religious right – and as I said above:
    “I don’t want religion to poison education, I don’t want children to be inculcated, I don’t want people to be afraid of the stigma associated with being an atheist, I don’t want women (and gays) to be oppressed.—All the things that Dawkins talks about about.—I want people to think more critically, etc. I want a secular world view.”
    As for Kierkegaard, I am glad that you can see the great beauty and profundity and artistry of some of his writings; I think a man of your sensitivity would be doing himself a disservice by dismissing writers such as him – instead of, as I said, taking what you can – and there are an abundance of pearls, gems (a tired cliché) to be extracted – and discarding (to the best of your ability) – the rest.
    (Imagine boycotting Back or Haydn because they had attended church! An unlikely scenario and a bad analogy, but you get it, I am sure.)
    Thanks for your clarification. (Btw, Paul may have what you have: he often writes emails to be that sound like a private language, and he often laughs at his own jokes, which only he understands. And I have a great sense of humor. Is that a symptom?)
    I appreciated everything you said.
    What did you mean by “going to the end”? That can mean any number of things.
    Laurie, how do you do the smiley face? I can’t do it! Waaa!



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  • Dan, we agree on so much here that in order not to die of boredom or see the website finally ossify, we need to pick fights once in a while.[mods snipout] Why the site admins won’t let us generate our own material more I do not know. Private messaging (an almost zero cost bolt-on) allowed a lot of social activity to flourish.[/mods snipout]

    What makes me tedious (petty?) is my concern for careful speech. So its religion’s moral consequences and not Religion per se. This is simply extending the Idea that whilst bright folk can change spontaneously (I’ve seem it very recently over at Strange Notions) the less intellectually invested may need to be walked down from the mind numbing heights. Like not telling Muslims that they are not doing Islam right unless they take it literally. It confounds political (!) progress to not be always clear about what is needful, rather than what we would like.



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  • Bach, not Back! Is this OCD? Is OCD, in your opinion, a part of the syndrome of religious mania, in a general sense?
    No one really knows what OCD is? Have you heard of William Stekel? Another psychoanalyst, and a friend of Freud. (They had a falling-out). The problem is that although he may have had an uncommon ability to gain understanding of the repressed material that gave rise to his patients’ symptoms, he might not have cured any of them; my assumption is that many of those tortured souls must have suicided. Look up Compulsion and Doubt.



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  • P.S. I wasn’t implying that you are hard to understand, Phil; I was just saying that my friend Paul (who seems to know more about W. than W. himself) sometimes is – and he thinks he may have a mild case of Aspergers. You seem to know quite a bit about that so I was just asking if that can be a symptom.
    I wonder if I have it. I wouldn’t be surprised.



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  • Interesting Phil. Thanks. My impression from the outside is that they get together and sing and feel good and socialize then go home happy. They are also known to have a progressive sex education program for their kids.



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  • Dan

    Just type a colon or semi-colon : then add a nose – and then a parenthesis aiming the way you want it to. That’s it. It turns into the yellow smiley face when you hit the “post comment” orange block (as if by magic). 🙂



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  • My impression too. I have no problems with that at all. Its just setting a low “Sunday Assembly” bar. For my purposes (e.g. talking Catholics out of Catholicism) I wanted a practical, morally proactive exemplar.



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  • Steven007
    Jan 15, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    I personally have the most trouble understanding how otherwise seemingly rational people (M[s]. Robinson, Francis Collins, etc) reach the conclusions they reach. It’s easier to understand buffoons acting like buffoons. But Robinson (an acclaimed writer with otherwise cogent views on many topics, save religion) and Collins are reasonable people by most measures not including their religious views.

    I think it is fairly straightforward, in terms of cognitive biases.
    Ms. Robinson, looking from the perspective of a left-leaning Jew, has no difficulty in recognising the failures of the ideologies of the opposing Christian right!

    When she encounters science, as in the “The God-Delusion”, which challenges her ideological faith-assumptions, she flip-flops around strawmen, in denial of both the evidence and the reasoning!

    That does not mean she has not picked up some valuable or valid ideas, – (possibly from secular Jews), but it does suggest she used “faith” to collect them, rather than evidenced reasoning!



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  • Alan, its weirder than that-

    Robinson was raised as a Presbyterian and later became a Congregationalist, worshipping and sometimes preaching at the Congregational United Church of Christ in Iowa City.[7][8] Her Congregationalism, and her interest in the ideas of John Calvin, have been important in her works, including Gilead, which centers on the life and theological concerns of a fictional Congregationalist minister.[9] In an interview with the Church Times in 2012, Robinson said: “I think, if people actually read Calvin, rather than read Max Weber, he would be rebranded. He is a very respectable thinker.”[10]



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  • phil

    I have no problems with that at all.

    Oh yes. Rest assured that I have taken note of this idea and have implemented it too. I’ve seen that some are capable of walking away from their religion and rethinking things but if that’s impossible for others then I want them to at least acknowledge that they must reject the crap “morality” that comes from that religion and switch over to an ethics based operating system.

    Also, when they say, “I don’t support that” I want them to acknowledge that donations of money and bums on benches is support. If one supports an organization then one is responsible for the actions of that organization. Don’t try to weasel out of it! If we don’t like the actions or ideas of the religion that we were born into then reject it and walk out. This is America and we have the freedom to do that, not like some other places on this earth where the same behavior will get your head chopped off.

    I accept that the UU’s, and other congregations, are getting together for feel good moments and socializing. Just because I don’t like that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. They like it and also they are capable of organizing a large group for social action.



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  • Francis Collins’ waterfall

    His watershed moment (one from an infinite variety, courtesy assembly line of human thought processes). A speed-bump quirk of sorts; yet, who doesn’t have one?

    A picture was posted recently > “sun and clouds in shape of a cross”. A common geometric shape – offhand I can’t think of any other religion that sees their symbols in nature.



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  • phil rimmer
    Jan 17, 2016 at 7:25 am

    Alan, its weirder than that-

    Robinson was raised as a Presbyterian and later became a Congregationalist, worshipping and sometimes preaching at the Congregational United Church of Christ in Iowa City.[7][8] Her Congregationalism, and her interest in the ideas of John Calvin,

    @OP replacement link –

    As a Jew, I sometimes feel that Christianity—Protestantism especially—seems very individualistic in the way it talks about salvation. My religious experience is that you can’t even begin to say certain prayers without having 10 adults in the room. Jews rarely talk about individual salvation. We confess our sins as a community.

    This is one truly mixed up faith-head!

    A Jewish, Presbyterian, Congregationalist!!!



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  • Ms. Robinson, looking from the perspective of a left-leaning Jew

    @ Alan, actually I think the writer Mr. Schulson is Jewish, not Robinson. That was his Jewish perspective. But point taken. She is real big on the Calvinist thing but I think she’s primarily a Calvin loving left leaning Presbyterian Congregationalist. Which is saying a mouthful, ha.



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  • Steven007
    Jan 18, 2016 at 9:44 am

    @ Alan, actually I think the writer Mr. Schulson is Jewish, not Robinson. That was his Jewish perspective.

    You are right – I should have spotted the emboldened paragraph was part of the question!



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